THEN (1988) --
- I made pedigree charts and family group sheets by hand.
- I had no genealogy software - only my charts and my brain.
- I had an IBM PC (64 kb, no hard drive) with a dot-matrix printer.
- I went to the library and ordered books and microfilms by Inter-Library Loan.
- I went to the FHC and ordered microfilms and microfiche.
- At the FHC, I used the IGI and Ancestral File to collect names for research.
- At the FHC, I used the AIS index to find census records for 1790 to 1850.
- I wrote letters to distant cousins and snail-mailed them.
- I traveled to the localities where my ancestors lived and visited libraries and other repositories there.
- I read one genealogy magazine - Everton's Genealogical Helper and submitted queries to that magazine.
- I found research articles about my ancestral families in NEHGS, TAG and other journals, and made xerox copies of them.
- I read few how-to genealogy books and articles.
- I saved quarters for the microfilm machines in film canisters.
- I spent hours at the FHC cranking microfilms to find a census record of an ancestor.
- I spent hours at the library browsing unindexed books for ancestral families.
- I spent hours at home trying to figure out what resource to look for next.
- There were online bulletin boards, but I didn't have a modem.
- Society and conference program speakers lectured with few visual aids.
- I don't make many pedigree charts and family group sheets - I do have an ahnentafel list on paper and research reports online!
- I have genealogy software (started with PAF, now use FTM) that writes reports and books for me. It can even capture online data for me (if I want it to)!
- I have a desktop PC (64 gb, CD, DVD, USB drives, external drive) with a combination scanner/printer, plus a laptop computer.
- I go to the library and help people do research and serve on a society board
- I go to the FHC and order microfilms of records not available elsewhere (mainly probate, land, tax, etc. records).
- At the FHC, I use the microfilm image scanner system to capture and save images not available elsewhere.
- I use my Ancestry subscription at home to find census, military, passenger, and other records for my ancestral families.
- I write emails to distant cousins and other researchers
- I travel to the localities where my ancestors lived and visit libraries and other repositories there, plus cemeteries and homesteads.
- I subscribe to several genealogy magazines and society publications.
- I find very few helpful research articles about my ancestral families in journals, and rarely make xerox copies of anything.
- I read how-to genealogy books and online genealogy articles and blogs voraciously.
- I have a drawer full of quarters that are in film canisters - but I rarely use them.
- I spend minutes at home searching online databases to find a census record of an ancestor.
- I spend minutes at home searching online databases with every-word indexes for books or newspaper articles on ancestral families.
- I spend minutes at home running software that tells me what resource to look for next.
- The computer systems are amazing - I connect to the Internet in an instant and can share and receive information instantly.
- Society and conference program speakers use sophisticated visual presentations
Obviously, things have improved for the genealogy researcher between 1988 and 2007 - we can quickly access information that took weeks or months to find 20 years ago. But we can easily get overloaded -- and even addicted to the process and the information. There is much more data easily available to a researcher, and more tools to use to capture it, digest it and share it.
However, the trend in genealogy is to stay at home and access online databases, which often hold secondary information from derivative sources. The problem with that is that much of the original source data is not yet on the Internet, and researchers who are only online are missing out on finding that information.
The other problem I see is that many new researchers try to do this alone - they don't join local or national genealogy societies to get the benefit of the experience and knowledge (in both traditional and online resources) of the members.Do beginning researchers have it "better" now? Definitely! But I'm concerned that they don't get the breadth of education and experience that was necessary in 1988, and is still necessary now in 2007, to do effective genealogy research. The "detective search" phase of the research cycle has sped up so much that the necessary time is not taken to critically evaluate information.
What say you? What would you add to my lists? Are you concerned by these issues? What can genealogy societies do to address these issues?